JS-Kit/Echo comments for article at http://smallestminority.blogspot.com/2008/07/its-like-something-from-science-fiction.html (8 comments)

  Tentative mapping of comments to original article, corrections solicited.

jsid-1216270606-594319  Joshua at Thu, 17 Jul 2008 04:56:46 +0000

Wouldn't this also make self-defense tantamount to genocide?

jsid-1216306563-594322  Ed "What the" Heckman at Thu, 17 Jul 2008 14:56:03 +0000

In short, it comes down to the whole "nature" vs. "nurture" debate again.

Those who think "nurture" rules all think that no one is responsible for their own actions. If someone is a criminal, it's because of their environment—i.e., they're criminals because they're pore 'n starvin' and didn't receive enough handouts. These are the people that think that girls play with dolls and boys play with trucks because our culture has somehow imposed those behaviors on them.

Those who think that "nature" rules all also deny person responsibility, but this time it's not society which is to blame, but genetics. A person's desires are to always be catered to, no matter what. (Deviant sexuality in all forms anyone?)

The truth is that genetics does play a role, but only as predispositions. Think of the numerous personality tests which figure out whether a person is an introvert/extrovert and logical/emotional. Those tests identify our predispositions, but anyone can learn how to overcome them to become a more balanced person.

For example, alcoholism also seems to have a genetic component. Some people are more likely to become alcoholics than others, and the environment does not seem to play as strong a role as ancestry in this predisposition. But I have yet to hear someone say that they need to give in to this desire and drink themselves to death. Instead, we encourage people to either avoid becoming alcoholics (and avoiding drink altogether if a predisposition has been identified) or changing the behavior if the person becomes an alcoholic.

Yes, we all have predispositions, but we also have personal responsibility. It may be hard to overcome our personal weaknesses, but it is always possible. We are intelligent, thinking human beings and we always have a choice.

jsid-1216323345-594328  LabRat at Thu, 17 Jul 2008 19:35:45 +0000

Ed has it right. While alleles that seem to "predispose" certain kinds of behavior have indeed been found, they only shape personality and our likeliest responses to our environment- they dictate nothing. In this particular case, the low-efficiency MAO allele doesn't seem to have any effect at all absent powerful environmental influences; a child who is treated with violence and neglect (or simple lack of structure) is simply likely to be less resilient and more impulsive/aggressive than one with a higher-efficiency MAO allele. It's no more determinative than having pale skin means you're destined to die of melanoma.

I strongly suggest you pick up Barbara Oakley's Evil Genes. Despite the provocative title, it's a Damned Interesting exploration of these biological underpinnings- and how they persist because they can be advantageous, depending on environment AND on what the individual chooses to do with his or her life.

jsid-1216348555-594334  Mastiff at Fri, 18 Jul 2008 02:35:55 +0000

As it says in the Talmud, if one has a craving for blood, let him become a butcher or a circumciser.

jsid-1216399479-594352  Kevin Baker at Fri, 18 Jul 2008 16:44:39 +0000

...if one has a craving for blood, let him become a butcher or a circumciser.

Let me be the first to say: Ewwwwwwww!

jsid-1216403821-594353  Mastiff at Fri, 18 Jul 2008 17:57:01 +0000

Hey, they get lots of tips...

jsid-1216421734-594362  LabRat at Fri, 18 Jul 2008 22:55:34 +0000

Mastiff, I don't know if you deserve a medal or a firing squad for that pun.

jsid-1216472239-594374  Grim at Sat, 19 Jul 2008 12:57:19 +0000

Firing squad, I say. Although I may be predisposed to violence.

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